Michael J. McGivney

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Michael J. McGivney
Father McGivney 300.jpg
Priest, Founder
BornMichael Joseph McGivney
(1852-08-12)August 12, 1852
Waterbury, Connecticut, United States
DiedAugust 14, 1890(1890-08-14) (aged 38)
Thomaston, Connecticut, United States
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church

Michael Joseph McGivney (August 12, 1852 August 14, 1890) was an American Catholic priest based in New Haven, Connecticut. He founded the Knights of Columbus at a local parish to serve as a mutual aid and fraternal insurance organization, particularly for immigrants and their families. It developed through the 20th century as the world's largest Catholic fraternal organization.


The cause for his canonization started in the Archdiocese of Hartford in 1996; in March 2008, Pope Benedict XVI declared McGivney "Venerable" in recognition of his "heroic virtue". [1] On May 27, 2020, it was announced by Pope Francis that McGivney had been approved for beatification, which will officially happen at a yet-to-be-determined date. [2] "The Vatican today (May 27) announced that Pope Francis approved the promulgation of a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of the founder of the Knights of Columbus, Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney, a Connecticut priest who served his flock during the pandemic of 1890, before himself becoming ill and dying of pneumonia. The pope’s action means that Father McGivney can be declared “Blessed,” the step just prior to sainthood. An additional miracle attributed to Father McGivney's intercession will be required for his canonization as a saint." [3] [4]

Early life

He was born to Irish immigrant parents, Patrick and Mary (Lynch) McGivney. He was the eldest of 13 children, six of whom died in infancy or childhood. His father worked as a molder in a Waterbury, Connecticut, brass mill. Michael attended the local Waterbury district school but left at 13 to work in the spoon-making department of one of the brass mills. [5]


In 1868, at the age of 16, he entered the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada. He continued his studies at Our Lady of Angels Seminary, near Niagara Falls, New York, [5] (1871–1872) and at the Jesuits' St. Mary's College, in Montreal, Quebec. He had to leave the seminary, returning home to help finish raising his siblings after the death of his father, in June 1873. [6] McGivney later resumed his studies at St. Mary's Seminary, in Baltimore, Maryland; he was ordained a priest on December 22, 1877, by Archbishop James Gibbons at the Baltimore Cathedral of the Assumption. [5]

Michael J. McGivney Michael J McGivney.jpg
Michael J. McGivney

Founding of the Knights of Columbus

From his own experience, McGivney recognized the devastating effect on immigrant families of the untimely death of the father and wage earner. Many Catholics were still struggling to assimilate into the American economy. [6] On March 29, 1882, while an assistant pastor at Saint Mary's Church in New Haven, Connecticut, McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus, with a small group of parishioners, [6] as a mutual aid society, to provide financial assistance, in the event of the men's deaths, to their widows and orphans. The organization developed as a fraternal society. McGivney was also known for his tireless work among his parishioners. [1]

McGivney spent seven years at St. Mary's, then became pastor of St. Thomas Church in Thomaston in 1884. He died from pneumonia at the age of 38 in Thomaston on the eve of the Assumption in 1890. [7]

The Knights of Columbus was among the first groups to recruit blood donors, with formal efforts dating to 1937 during the Great Depression. As of 2013, the order has more than 1.8 million member families and 15,000 councils. During the 2012 fraternal year, the order donated $167 million and 70 million man-hours to charity. [8]

By 2020, the order reached 2 million member mark. [9] During the 2019 fraternal year, the order donated $187 million and 77 million man-hours to charity.

Cause for canonization

Monument of Michael J. McGivney, Founder of Knights of Columbus, at the Church of the Ascension in Saratoga, California, USA Monument of the Venerable Michael J. McGivney, Founder of Knights of Columbus, at the Church of the Ascension, San Jose, CA USA.JPG
Monument of Michael J. McGivney, Founder of Knights of Columbus, at the Church of the Ascension in Saratoga, California, USA

In 1996, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford opened the cause for canonization, an investigation into McGivney's life with a view towards formal recognition by the Catholic Church of his sainthood. Gabriel O'Donnell is the postulator of McGivney's cause. He is also the director of the Fr. McGivney Guild, which now has 150,000 members supporting his cause. [10]

The diocesan investigation was closed in 2000, and the case was passed to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Vatican City. On March 15, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI approved a decree recognizing McGivney's heroic virtue, thus declaring him as "Venerable." [6]

As of August 6,2013, a miracle attributed to McGivney's intercession was under investigation at the Vatican. [10] On May 27, 2020, the miracle attributed to the intercession of McGivney was approved by Congregation for the Causes of Saints and authorized by Pope Francis. [11]

The beatification Mass for McGivney is currently scheduled for October 31, 2020, in Connecticut, according to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, with the congregation's prefect to preside on the pope's behalf. [12]


Fr. Michael J. McGivney monument in Sts. Peter & Paul Parish Church, Bauang, La Union, Philippines BauangLaUnionChurchjf784.JPG
Fr. Michael J. McGivney monument in Sts. Peter & Paul Parish Church, Bauang, La Union, Philippines

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  1. 1 2 "Knights of Columbus Founder Declared Venerable". Zenit.org. March 16, 2008. Archived from the original on June 7, 2011.
  2. "Knights of Columbus founder Fr. Michael McGivney to be beatified". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  3. "Michael McGivney closer to sainthood".
  4. "Promulgazione di Decreti della Congregazione delle Cause dei Santi, 27.05.2020". Holy See Press Office (in Italian). May 27, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  5. 1 2 3 "Early Years : Father Michael McGivney Office – Philippines" . Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  6. 1 2 3 4 "Father Michael McGivney", Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network Archived September 16, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  7. "St Mary's Parish | New Haven, CT". ST MARY PARISH. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  8. "Knights set record for giving $167 million, 70 million volunteer hours, in 2012", Catholic Philly, June 2013
  9. "Knights of Columbus unveils new initiation ceremony that will be public". Archdiocese of Baltimore. January 29, 2020. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  10. 1 2 "Annual Report of the Supreme Knight" (pdf). Knights of Columbus. August 6, 2013. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
  11. "Knights of Columbus founder Fr. Michael McGivney to be beatified". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  12. Hattrup, Kathleen N. "KofC founder to be beatified October 31; other beatifications postponed" . Retrieved July 21, 2020.
  13. Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy
  14. "McGivney Institutions and Memorials", Father McGivney Guild

Further reading